It's hard building healthy relationships, but so worth the effort
The 6:40 arrived at the Glen Ellyn station at 7:30 p.m., which made it the late train in more ways than one.
She looked like most of the women who commute downtown: conservative business suit, brief case, Reeboks -- the standard Loop uniform for success.
She was tired. Most of the people who get off the late trains are. The commuters who step out of the 5:08 or 5:34, or even the 6:01 still have a bit of spring in their step. You can imagine them going home and doing the laundry, mowing the lawn, playing with the kids.
By the time the late trains pull in, however, there's not much time, or energy, left for much of anything: a quick bite to eat, check the mail, get everybody ready for bed.
You could see her tiredness in the way she walked, the expression on her face, and as she got closer the look in her eyes. Then she saw the small boy coming toward her across the parking lot.
She was transformed. Her pace quickened, she practically danced down the steps. Her face, her eyes, were alive with joy. I'm not sure what they said to each other; their hug muffled their words.
It sounded something like "Mom, I missed you!" and "I sure missed you, too!"
Dad, from his seat on the rear of the car, smiled, then joined in the greeting as they all climbed in.
Now, I'm sure this is no "Ozzie and Harriet," "Father Knows Best," "Donna Reed" family. Who knows, maybe Mom and Dad were fighting about who forgot to start the dishwasher before they even got out of the lot. Their son probably spilled his soda when they stopped at a fast-food place for supper.
But for a moment, even if it was a brief moment, they remembered. They remembered what it's all about.
The evidence is clear. Healthy relationships are crucial to our physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual well-being. Every time you turn around there is a new study or research project pointing to this conclusion.
Most of us don't need scientific evidence to convince us of this. We know, or feel, it already. It's something we learned each time we loved and were loved in return.
Of course, we sure forget it often enough. We get caught up in our career, activities, projects and own interests. We get distracted, we lose track.
But then it hits us. A phone call from an old friend. A letter from our sister. A card from our spouse. An "I sure love you" from our child. And we remember.
Unfortunately, finding, building and maintaining such healthy relationships is probably one of the hardest things we can do. Maybe that's why so many of us settle for the second-rate satisfaction we can find in our job, activities, etc.
But sooner or later, someone or something always reminds us: it's the people that make it all worthwhile.
Is there anything we can do? Well, we might start with simply telling the people in our lives just how important they really are. We might also ask them what we can do to be better "relational partners" for them. And we could share with them what they can do to enhance our life together.
That doesn't sound all that easy. But I guess that's the way things work. The more important something is, the more difficult it is to find and hold on to it.
On the other hand, it's sure worth the effort -- every bit of it.
• Dr. Ken Potts is on the staff of Samaracare Counseling Center in Naperville and Downers Grove. He is the author of "Mix Don't Blend, A Guide to Dating, Engagement and Remarriage With Children."